The European Commission’s quest against “greenwashing”

The European Commission’s quest against “greenwashing”

Consumers have been loud and clear enough that big companies producing all types of goods and providing all kinds of services know it is no longer an option to become greener; it is a must, a minimum requirement to stay on the market. However, is everything we see marketed as “environmentally friendly” really green? Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR for short) has been in vogue for the last few years. Nevertheless, even when the push to improve is so great, some companies have resorted to “greenwashing”: using marketing techniques to pretend compliance with sustainability requirements without striving for them. These practices result in misleading consumers with empty claims, unfair competition, and an overall negative impact on consumers’ health.

So now that we know what it is, how do we avoid it? The EU has carried out a yearly “sweep” exercise on market vigilance to protect consumers against untruthful green claims. This is part of the European Commission’s New Consumer Agenda to support both EU’s digital and green transition.

Therefore, during this exercise, the Commission and consumer authorities ordered a sweep over 344 claims. The results drawn from this study concluded that over 50% of these were not presenting clear information to the consumer; 37% included vague and misleading statements; and 59% of the claims were not sufficiently backed up by evidence to support them.

The conclusion drawn from this sweep was that 42% of the claims needed amendment or further investigation. As a follow-up action, the Commission will contact the responsible companies and urge them to make the necessary changes as part of the New Consumer Agenda (European Commission, 2020). Most importantly, the EU is planning a legislative proposal to provide better information on product sustainability and protection against “greenwashing” practices and a legislative proposal to substantiate of green claims. Finally, the Commission intends to implement harmonised mandatory front-of-pack nutrition labelling on food products to strengthen consumer information.


Are you a manufacturer producing greener medical devices or cosmetics? Do you wish to market your products on the EU market? Obelis, with more than 30 years of regulatory experience, can assist you in achieving compliance.


Silvia Zarzuela Martin

RA Department

06.01.2022


REFERENCES

BBC. (20/09/2013) A Brief History of Climate Change. Retrieved on 22/12/2021 from https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-15874560

European Commission. (28 January, 2021). Screening of websites for ‘greenwashing': half of green claims lack evidence. Retrieved on 28/12/2021 from https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/ip_21_269

European Commission. (13 November, 2020). New consumer agenda. Retrieved on 30/12/2021 from https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legalcontent/EN/TXT/?uri=CELEX:52020DC0696

European Commission. (2021). Consumer policy – strengthening the role of consumers in the green transition. Retrieved on 30/12/2021 from https://ec.europa.eu/info/law/better-regulation/have-your-say/initiatives/12467-Consumer-policy-strengthening-the-role-of-consumers-in-the-green-transition_en

European Commission. (2021). Environmental performance of products & businesses – substantiating claims. Retrieved on 30/12/2021 from https://ec.europa.eu/info/law/better-regulation/have-your-say/initiatives/12511-Environmental-performance-of-products-&-businesses-substantiating-claims_en